“I’d been thrilled having Kennedy as president; he was handsome, young, smart–but it didn’t bother me that much that he was dead. What bothered me was the way the television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad.”
16 Jackies, Andy Warhol, 1964
After President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, Andy Warhol began his series of “Jackie paintings” in response to the media blitz that followed the incident. 16 Jackies is a grid of four different images based on news photos of Jacqueline Kennedy from international press coverage of JFK’s death.
According to Christopher Knight (Los Angeles Times art critic):
For art, the 1963 murder of a president became America’s Guernica.
In style, emotional tenor and generation, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol were very different artists. But both made paintings that spoke to an epic social trauma of their day. And both used the same motif — a weeping woman — to focus the unfathomable event.
Over three hours in the afternoon of April 26, 1937, German bombers pummeled an ancient Basque village in Northern Spain with a hundred thousand pounds of high-explosive and incendiary bombs, reducing the town of Guernica to smoking rubble. Shock waves spread across Europe.
Picasso, then 55 and a mature artist, went to work. In a few weeks’ time he completed a big painting that would become an anguished modern icon of anti-war protest….
Guernica (detail), Pablo Picasso, 1937
The Weeping Woman,Pablo Picasso, 1937.
This painting was the final and most elaborate of the Weeping Woman series, which is regarded as a thematic continuation of the tragedy depicted in Picasso’s epic painting Guernica. In focusing on the image of a woman crying, the artist was no longer painting the effects of the Spanish Civil War directly, but rather referring to a singular universal image of suffering.
…Warhol’s weeping women are cold, Picasso’s are hot. Picasso’s boil over, Warhol’s remain numb. Picasso’s are violently intimate, Warhol’s passively remote. Picasso prized individual heroics, Warhol disappeared into the crowd..
But like Picasso, Warhol understood that art can function as a powerful social lever. His emotionally neutered Jackie portraits used American popular culture as a weapon, not a target. Warhol’s icy weeping woman put Picasso squarely in the cross hairs — Picasso and all the accumulated mythologies and pretensions of established Modern art..
The younger artist had no choice. For as long as art’s old aesthetic machismo held sway, there simply was no room for the likes of him. So, with the deliberateness of an assassin, Warhol coolly killed it off.